Look back at 50 Years Pt. 9 – Chris Lee
by on May 12, 2015 in News

Now, it’s 1986 and I’m back home in Greenville and I really wanted to be in radio…..very, very much. While still DJ’ing at Billy Bob’s I began working at WSSL. Now here’s my schedule: Sundays from 6:00 AM ’til 12:00 PM and then return and do 6:00 PM ’til 12:00 AM. Yup, 12 hours every Sunday, even after working until 2:00 AM on Saturday Nights, but I was young didn’t need sleep! Plus I really wanted to be in radio! Did I say that already? During my Sunday shifts I was only actually “on-air” for about 3 hours total. The rest of the time was races, pre-recorded shows like the Country Music Countdown. But I really enjoyed being there, the music, the studio, it really was a great job.

Back then, you had no choice but to listen to the music. You had to start EVERY song, or at least every two or three. But you had to pay attention. There were no digital systems like today where you can “voice-track”. More on that later. By listening to the music, you became very familiar with the songs and know them by heart. Country radio was strong again with legendary artists like George Jones, Conway Twitty, Alabama, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Vern Gosdin, Earl Thomas Conley, John Conlee, John Anderson and many others. Bob Kingsley was doing the countdown back then and is still doing it today! He has to be 100 years old! I just Googled him and can’t find a reference to his age! But I think he was probably born @1940.

Being a musician, I loved being around the music, all music. But Country became my favorite I guess because I was exposed to so much of it for the next 3 years. I was promoted to full-time doing the overnight shift at WSSL from 12:00 midnight until 5:30 AM when Bob Morgan and Lizz would come in to do the morning show. Bob Morgan was a very loud man! He had a booming voice that could be heard down 3 hallways and into a soundproof recording studio! Bob had been in radio for many years at WORD and WSSL and several other stations. He was a wealth of radio knowledge and he taught me a lot. Years later, after he retired, I would stop by his house from time to time and visit. I will always remember how nice he was to me.

The staff at that time was Bob Morgan in the morning, Joe Lawrence in the Afternoon, Me at night and various other personalities like David Lee, “Mad Dog” Bob Mackney, Jeff Patterson, Jeff Warren, Stanley Clark – The Night Watchman, and many others.

After a few months, the evening position came open and I moved from overnights to the 7:00 PM to Midnight spot, now we’re talking! More listeners and more phone interaction. I got to know a lot of listeners over the phone and some would come out to our remote broadcasts just to meet us. Sometimes in one night I could get over 100 calls during a 5 hour shift. If we had a big money contest going on, people would call just to make sure they could actually get through!

The Program Director, Dave Welchel, had an apartment and needed a roommate to help out with the rent. So I moved out of Mom and Dad’s again into my “swinging bachelor pad”. My bedroom was probably 24 feet long by 15 feet wide, it was huge with a walk in closet and huge bathroom. We had 3 pools at the apartment complex and one was right outside my bedroom window. I slept til noon most days but would be awakened at least twice a week by a girl knocking on my window to “talk”. I had blackened the windows to keep the sun out, so it was perpetual night in my room. I had a rule, no knocking ’til noon!

By now most people around the area clubs new me from the radio. Billy Bob’s, The Alibi, Big Daddy’s, Cowboys, The Silver Fox and many more around the Upstate were my playground. Club owners would not let me pay for my drinks and I might slip an extra commercial or two in for them. Yeah, it was wrong, but hey….what the Hell? I met a lot of girls/women and even got into a couple of serious relationships. Later in 1987 I met a girl and we moved in together in a small apartment off of White Horse Rd about 3 miles from the station….perfect….or so I thought. Being so close to the station came in handy during a couple of snowstorms, I could keep us on the air when others couldn’t make it in. Back then it was important to stay on the air to provide information because radio and television were the only sources. No smart phones, no internet. If you wanted the weather and it wasn’t 6:00PM. you picked up the home phone and dialed the weather hotline at the airport for the recorded forecast.

I met a lot of radio people from other stations, it was always a kind of “secret” meeting so no one new we were hanging around each other, usually at someone’s apartment or house, NEVER in public. Rumors could start that we were sharing station “secrets” with other radio people. We didn’t know any secrets…. Most of them had worked with each other at another stations or in my case, I was simply a fan. I had grown up listening to some of them on WQOK, WESC and WSSL. I met JJ & James from WANS, Diana Daniels from Rock 101, Sccoter Leslie, Mike Benson, Lee Rogers, Steve Chris and so many more. I began to hear stories of how bad the radio business was, always fearing a bad ratings survey and losing your job or having to move just to stay employed or try to get into a larger market for more money.

During my time at WSSL I met and saw a lot of country artists, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis, Steve Wariner, Reba McEntire, Exile, Alabama, The Statler Brothers, Sawyer Brown, Sylvia, Restless Heart and many more. One of the big events each year was The Peach Festival, an annual event held in Gaffney, SC. Back then the concert stage was set up in front of the high school football stadium bleachers. Sawyer Brown came almost every year and would also play in a celebrity softball game against local media personalities. From The Gaffney Ledger:

A “talented” team of upstate media representatives fill the roster of softballers who will take on Sawyer BrownT. Graham Brown in the Peach Festival’s charity softball game on Thursday, July 16. Announcements were made this week as to those who will comprise the media team from six area news organizations. According to playercoach Tommy Martin of The Gaffney Ledger, “we got some real killers in this bunch. ” A partial list is as follows: WSPA, TV: Coming over from channel 7 to play with the media team is co-anchor Jane Robelot (“We’re not completely stupid,” coach Martin said); weekend news and weather man Bill Meek; and sports reporter Bob Jubeck. Sports Editor Stan Olenik will also be on hand but will not play in the game. “My softball career has long since ended,” Olenik said this week. WSSL RADIO: WSSL, Quality. Why settle for anything but the best? which will broadcast portions of the game live on their Greenville FM station, is bringing in three on-air personalities to play in the game. Chris Lee, Bob Morgan and Joe Lawrence, all very familiar names in Cherokee County, will be in uniform for the media team. (“We needed some heavy hitters from out-of-town and these three guys fill the bill,” coach Martin said.)

Wow, I had my name in the paper as a local media celebrity alongside Jane Robelot, Bob Morgan and Joe Lawrence. THE BIG TIME! Yeah, that and .50 cents would get me a cup of coffee. It was pretty cool though, we got to hang out with Mark Miller and the guys from Sawyer Brown, drink beer and “play” softball. The Local media took it seriously for a bit, then it would always get silly, but fun. A lot of laughs and great memories.

But radio is fickle…..

Stay tuned for Part 10.

 

SEE THE WHOLE SERIES HERE!

 

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